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Friday, January 20, 2012

Holder’s Top Dogs ‘Taking The Fifth’ On Fast & Furious

Holder’s Top Dogs ‘Taking The Fifth’ On Fast & Furious

“The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious.” - Darrell Issa

By Dell Hill

The Obama administration - most especially Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff - have themselves painted into a very small corner, thanks to the dogged pursuit of truth and justice being pursued by Chairman Darrell Issa and the House Oversight Committee.  That pursuit has resulted in an unprecedented legal maneuver by one of the highest ranking employees of Holder’s agency.

The details via Fox News and Ed Morrissey.
“It’s every citizen’s right to take the Fifth Amendment in court and Congressional hearings when testifying.  When the sitting chief of a criminal investigation division for a US Attorney’s office does it, though, it certainly calls into question what in blazes the Department of Justice has been doing, especially with Operation Fast and Furious:

The chief of the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona is refusing to testify before Congress regarding Operation Fast and Furious, the federal gun-running scandal that sent U.S. weapons to Mexico.

Patrick J. Cunningham informed the House Oversight Committee late Thursday through his attorney that he will use the Fifth Amendment protection.

Cunningham was ordered Wednesday to appear before Chairman Darrell Issa and the House Oversight Committee regarding his role in the operation that sent more than 2,000 guns to the Sinaloa Cartel. Guns from the failed operation were found at the murder scene of Border Agent Brian Terry.

The letter from Cunningham’s Washington DC attorney stunned congressional staff. Last week, Cunningham, the second highest ranking U.S. Attorney in Arizona, was scheduled to appear before Issa‘s committee voluntarily. Then, he declined and Issa issued a subpoena.

Cunningham is represented by Tobin Romero of Williams and Connolly who is a specialist in white collar crime.  In the letter, he suggests witnesses from the Department of Justice in Washington, who have spoken in support of Attorney General Eric Holder, are wrong or lying.

Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, issued a statement few minutes ago calling this move “extremely rare” and “an indictment” in itself of the DoJ’s integrity.  Issa also points out that the scope of the strategy that Cunningham will employ will leave him answering no questions except his name and title:

“The assertion of the fifth amendment by a senior Justice official is a significant indictment of the Department’s integrity in Operation Fast and Furious. The former head of the ATF has previously told the committee that the Justice Department is managing its response to Operation Fast and Furious in a manner designed to protect its political appointees.  This is the first time anyone has asserted their fifth amendment right in this investigation and heightens concerns that the Justice Department’s motivation for refusing to hand over subpoenaed materials is a desire to shield responsible officials from criminal charges and other embarrassment.

“Coming a year after revelations about reckless conduct in Operation Fast and Furious were first brought to light, the assertion of the fifth amendment also raises questions about whether President Obama and Attorney General Holder have made a serious and adequate response to allegations raised by whistleblowers.  Did Attorney General Holder really not know a senior Justice Department official fears criminal prosecution or is this just another example of him hiding important facts?  The committee will continue to demand answers.”

Dell’s Bottom Line:

In his letter to Issa, Romero suggested that Cunningham has become the victim.

In the letter, he suggests witnesses from the Department of Justice in Washington, who have spoken in support of Attorney General Eric Holder, are wrong or lying.

“Department of Justice officials have reported to the Committee that my client relayed inaccurate information to the Department upon which it relied in preparing its initial response to Congress. If, as you claim, Department officials have blamed my client, they have blamed him unfairly,” the letter to Issa says.

Romero claims Cunningham did nothing wrong and acted in good faith, but the Department of Justice in Washington is making him the fall guy, claiming he failed to accurately provide the Oversight Committee with information on the execution of Fast and Furious.

However, we have to ask “If Cunningham did nothing wrong, why not testify to that fact and prove his innocence immediately?”  He’s going to have to testify at some point, it would seem to be to his advantage to do so now and get the monkey off of his back.  Refusing to testify only suggests that lies have been told and that he (Cunningham) may have told some of those lies.  

Issa’s committee will now have to determine if offering immunity to Cunningham would be worth the time and trouble, or would they be better served to haul Holder back in and find out what the Hell is going on that would cause his chief operatives to fear criminal prosecution.  There’s also the distinct possibility that those involved could expose themselves to civil liability, all the way up the DOJ ladder.

One thing that strikes me as almost cruelly ‘funny’ is the fact that the agency designed to maintain justice at the very highest levels is now refusing to maintain justice by refusing to answer to Congress.

In any event, should Cunningham stand by his attorney recommended legal stance of exercising his Fifth Amendment Right against self incrimination, his days as a federal employee should be instantly over.  Should Issa offer him immunity in exchange for his testimony and he still refuses to answer questions, the obligatory contempt citation would be issued and we would then know most assuredly that some serious criminal activity has taken place.

Many Americans have been screaming for Issa to investigate and take every legal step possible to get to the bottom of several simmering scandals inside (and outside) the Beltway.  Fast and Furious is clearly the most serious of the scandals because its net affect has been the loss of as many as 200 lives, including federal agents.

It’s difficult, however, when the Obama administrations top officials refuse to comply with subpoenas and decline to answer questions during a congressional investigation.  That’s a matter that needs to be addressed by the President, but all indications are that no such action will ever be taken.  Further suggesting this President might well have known about Fast and Furious and perhaps even signed off on that ill-fated federal policy.

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